As of Monday, recreational anglers will get a chance to reacquaint themselves with the much-coveted Gulf of Maine cod when federal fishing restrictions for the species are lifted until the end of September.
But don’t expect a windfall. The bag limit for the iconic species, whose stock NOAA Fisheries maintains is in freefall, will be one cod per fisherman per day.
Still, for recreational fishermen, party boats and larger charter operations, it just might work out that the opportunity to catch one cod a day is enough to lure bigger crowds aboard the boats. Tom Orrell, owner of Gloucester-based Yankee Fleet, certainly hopes that’s the case.
“Our numbers were a little light in July and we’ve been wondering if maybe if some of our recreational fishermen made a conscious decision to wait until they had a chance to land cod,” Orrell said. “So, we’re kind of holding our breath to see what happens.”
Up to this point in the season, Orrell said, his customers have been hauling big numbers of haddock and cusk from around the waters off Cape Ann and farther out. But there is no discounting the allure of the cod.
“Every day, after every trip comes in, I hear the same thing,” Orrell said. “Guys are going home with plenty of fish, especially haddock, but all I keep hearing is, ‘Tom, you can’t believe how much cod I had to throw back.’ So, I’d like to think it will help a bit.”
The anglers’ comments are representative of the overall narrative of local fishermen — commercial, recreational and lobstermen — who continue to insist they are seeing far more cod in the water than the scientists at NOAA Fisheries say are there.
It is a disconnect that, in many ways, has come to define the plight of the commercial fishing industry and its lack of trust in the science that comes out of NOAA Fisheries. They hear one thing in the stock assessments. They see another with their eyes when they’re out on the water.
Under the new regulations, anglers can keep their one cod per day as long as it is 24 inches or longer. The bag limit for haddock is 15 fish per fisherman per day, with a minimum size of 17 inches.
The season will remain open until Sept. 30 and then close from Oct. 1 through next April.
“That’s actually going to be a big plus for us, that we can keep fishing for haddock and cod in September,” Orrell said.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.